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Appreciating the partnership of wine and food

To date, wine is a luxury beverage produced mainly in Italy and France.  Despite being a luxury, there is such a variety of tastes and uses that one can find a bottle of wine as cheap as ten dollars and as expensive as $40,000 dollars.  That being said, wine captures the attention of the poorest and richest for a variety of reasons.  One reason for its popularity in particular is the potential health benefits.  We’ve all heard that red wine, for example, has incredible health benefits.  These benefits include all of the following:

• Increase levels of HDL in the bloodstream (good cholesterol)
• Reduce levels of LDL in the bloodstream (bad cholesterol)
• Reduce blood clotting
• Increase levels of antioxidants in the body
• And many more!

While these benefits have been backed by biomedical research again and again, some people may feel uncomfortable incorporating it into their daily drink regimen if they are not already accustomed to it.  Also, wines have a variety of tastes so it instead of spending a lot of money trying different wines with different foods, it might be best to find information about the basics of red wines versus white wines. 
 For example, red wine typically goes well with Italian foods like pizza, lasagna, and pasta.  It is easy to remember that because most of these foods have “red” in them.  By this I mean the tomatoes or tomato paste used to make them.  Red wine also goes very well with grilled meats like barbeque and chicken and as for seafood, tuna and salmon are perfect matches for enjoying a chilled glass of red wine.

Now white wine is at the other spectrum of the wine groups.  For this reason, white wine should never be used with any kind of spicy foods or foods that might have a tomato-like taste to them.  Another important note to remember is that white wine, unlike red wine, should not be served very chilled.  If there is a preference for it being somewhat cooler, keeping it in the fridge for a few hours should suffice, however it can and often should be drank at room temperature for optimal taste.

Moving forward, the topic of food and wine does not always mean wine on the side as a beverage to go along with a meal.  Food and wine also means certain kinds of wines mixed in with foods.  Wine mixed in with food can add lots of flavor while giving you some of the health benefits of drinking wine alone as a beverage.  The reason I say you will only get some of the benefits is because most meals call for use of heat and generally speaking heat can damage certain chemical properties within something as delicate as wine, however, there are still some benefits.

A variety of healthy recipes exist online and in plenty of cookbooks that include the use of a variety of wines as a primary or optional ingredient.  Now wine has always been traditionally used with meats like beef, chicken, pork, and fish, however there are plenty of desserts, side dishes, soups, and appetizers that also make excellent use of wine mixed with various foods.  Exploring the different ways one can mix food and wine (the ingredient) can be very useful if you want to start small and just add wine to some recipes you already have. 

The advice above should be most useful.  But for now you can start by adding just a teaspoon of red or white wine to your favorite dish and see what it does to the smell and then taste. However, it is important to note that smell can be very deceptive so the best way to see if it will work well is by trial and error taste tests.  Wine tasting techniques are discussed at the end of this article. 

When you do add in the wine, it might be helpful to not “cook” it for long.  In fact, just adding it on towards the end of the cooking time for a few minutes on low heat would work very well in most cases.  Another tip would be to take away one spice you would traditionally use and instead of that spice use your choice of wine.  This way, little by little, you could see how making small adjustments in your recipes would allow you to incorporate more wine in your diet!

Wine tasting is definitely an art and one that is learned typically by trial and error.  The following steps should be practiced frequently and are ideal especially if you want to know if the wine you have is truly superb and develop an appreciation for winemakers. 

1. Look – Examine the wine glass closely for color and clarity.  Older wines are typically more translucent.
2. Smell – Gently swirl the wine in the glass around and let your sense of smell take you away!  You may smell flowers or berries mixed into a sensual aroma.
3. Taste – The best part.  Take the smallest sip possible and let the sip spread on your tongue until all the taste buds on your tongue are awakened. 
4. Attack/Evolution Phases - You may at first think a wine is bitter, but after a moment it becomes sweeter or vice versa.  These two phases may last between 15 seconds to a few minutes, depending on the person.
5. Finish – How long do you have the taste in your mouth after taking a sip?  Does it last more than five minutes?  Does the taste actually appeal to you? 

And that’s all there is to wine tasting.  It is a complexly unique profession for the average person to undertake, but well worth it if you want to incorporate wine in some fashion or another into your daily diet regiment.
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